The stars were out for the first day of SXSW, gathering outside the Paramount theater for a special screening of the Ridley Scott classic, Alien. Celebrating both the original movie and the upcoming release of Alien: Covenant, the screening included a brief montage of clips from the new movie, about which I can cautiously advise: get excited.
Scott was on hand for the screening, as were Covenant stars Danny McBride, Michael Fassbender, and Katherine Waterston. We got the chance to speak with Scott and McBride on the red carpet to gain some insight into what to expect from the new movie.
How has evolving technology changed the course of the Alien franchise?
Scott: Well, it helps enormously, but it doesn’t write scripts. The script is the most important thing you can actually get together. It’s always script, script, script, script. Then the technology paints the picture more efficiently.
When Prometheus came out it had a mixed reception from hardcore Alien fans. Do you think that with Alien: Covenant they’ll be able to accept both the films into the franchise, or do you think it will still be a struggle?
What I’ve done is started the engine on a new franchise. So, originally no one asked, who made this [alien world] and why? I came back with Prometheus and asked the question, and imbued a whole bunch of new questions. Covenant will be exploring these answers and asking more.
I have to ask, which Alien film have you enjoyed the most?
All films are my children, I could never choose. But this one is going to scare the shit out of you.
Based on the little that we saw of Covenant last night, Scott doesn’t seem to be exaggerating on his claims here. The clips included a frightening new take on the classic chest-bursting scenes that caused more than a few people to genuinely jump in fright. That’s no small feat for a franchise nearing its fourth decade, and a stunning tribute to the kind of filmmaker that Scott can be.
The clips also gave us a deeper look at some of the new characters we’ll be introduced to this May, when Covenant is released, including McBride’s Tennessee. McBride isn’t an actor you’d normally associate with a movie like this, something that he feels conscious of without being overly concerned about. We were able to get some insight into what it was like to jump into such an iconic franchise.
Moving from comedy to action feels kind of tricky, how did you feel stepping into the Alien franchise to make that transition?
McBride: You know, you just hope you’re not the one who fucks the whole thing up (laughs). But you know, it’s like, weirdly with horror it does kind of rely on the same things you use in comedy; you have to understand pace, you have to understand like, when to release tension and when to build tension up to get the outcome you want, whether it’s a punchline or it’s an alien bursting out of your chest. So it’s been fun. Also just as a fan of films in general it was awesome to be on something like this, to see how something like this was made.
Were you ready to kind of, make that switch from comedy to something else?
I’ve always just kind of picked projects that I would want to watch myself. So uh, yeah it was exciting to be offered something like this. I definitely love the genre, I love these kind of films, so it was cool to work on it. My parents think I’m in real movies now, so it’s great (laughs).
Did you have to audition for this, or was it more of a, they called you because they wanted you for the part?
You know, I got a call from Ridley, I got this call that Ridley wanted to meet and I didn’t know what it was for, so I went and met with him, which was pretty incredible on its own. And it was like, halfway through the meeting he was showing me illustrations and sketches of spaceships. I started piecing it together like, this is for Alien, holy shit let’s do this. It was cool.
While there were hopes that the retro screening would turn out to be a secret screening of the new movie, those were ultimately dashed. What we did see, however, doubled down on Scott’s claims about the new film scaring the shit out of you. Though quite the promise, as of now he’s not wrong. From the little that we saw, the elements missing from Prometheus to make it work were prominently displayed here, dragging the audience into an eerie calm as they await unknown terror. Face huggers, AI, unanswered questions, explosions, and yes, chest bursting all played prominent roles in these first clips, and goddamnit if it wasn’t every horror nut’s dream come true.
The cast did a quick Q&A with a moderator where Fassbender revealed more about his dual roles as both his earlier character David, and a new AI model accompanying the Covenant crew on their expedition. That, paired with Waterston’s Freudian slip referring to herself as “Ripley” cast a spoiler-y shadow on the auditorium, revealing new plot points we can exploit until the film’s summer release. Scott ended the evening with an intro to the original Alien film, commending all those who brought it to fruition, and reminding the audience that “in space, no one can hear you scream.”
Alien: Covenant opens everyone on May 19.